Why does my dog... pee in the house?
Why does my dog… pee in the house?
It doesn't matter what size the dog is, peeing in the house is a problem. Sure, us humans get to tinkle in the house all the time, but we make sure that none of it gets on the brand new sofa or our favourite rug (most of the time...)
There are many different reasons why your dog might be choosing to wee in the house, but the first and most important thing is that if this is a new or out of character behaviour for your dog, they need a vet check right away. There are several medical causes for this behaviour including urinary tract infections, kidney disease, diabetes, age related incontinence and as a result of medications such as steroids.
History of confinement
Naturally a dog will have strong instincts not to soil their bed area, which helps a lot with toilet training. Unfortunately many rescue dogs come from environments where they were confined to small areas for extended periods of time, leading to just learning to go where they are standing. Puppies and mama dogs that come from puppy farms are also victims of this and can take a lot longer to toilet train than puppies that have been taught the right place to potty from the moment they can move around.
Incomplete toilet training
Although dogs instinctively know not to go in their bed, they do not necessarily know where us humans with our odd rules actually want them to go. In fact, that fluffy rug is the perfect absorbent surface for a youngster with a full bladder and can seem to them like the right place to go!
It is our job as pet parents to teach our dogs of any age exactly where we want them to go, by taking them to the right place several times a day and allowing them opportunity to relive themselves. For dogs that aren't reliable yet, constant vigilance is the name of the game. Making sure they have 100% of our attention so we can take them back to the right place if we spot any signs of sniffing and circling that could indicate a full bladder. If you can't watch your dog like a hawk, set them up in a dog proof area with their bed in it. A crate is perfect to achieve this for short periods of time or overnight, for longer periods a puppy pen with a bed one end and a place to toilet at the other will help keep everything separate. In the toilet area of the pen you can put a large litter tray with an absorbent surface that it similar to the location you want your pup to go long term, e.g. a piece of turf if you want your pup to go on grass!
Marking their territory
A dog's world revolves around scent and they naturally use urine and faeces to mark their territory and communicate a whole host of things to other individuals. A huge motivation for this behaviour is the urge to mate, especially for entire males! Neutering often helps a lot with inappropriate marking, but isn't necessarily a quick fix if this behaviour has become a habit. If your pup is a serial leg cocker provide them with several opportunities to get it out of their system throughout the day. Even just a quick walk to the end of the road and back where you allow your dog to sniff and cock their leg on every tree and lamppost can save your soft furnishings from your dog's well meaning “pee-mails”.
Can your dog see out the window when you're not around? Many dogs will want to leave their mark after watching another dog walk past, preventing access to windows is a quick way to fix this pesky problem.
You've heard of a nervous bladder? That serious urge to pee you get just before taking your driving test or visiting the dentist. Dogs pee when they're anxious, just like us humans! Both general anxiety and acute stress from one off incidents can cause inappropriate puddles in your house. Anything such as being frightened by a loud bang, or the scary dog next door barking can lead to a nervous bladder. The key to helping your dog is to pinpoint what is causing the anxiety and work to help your dog feel better about it. A good trainer or behaviourist can help you through this process.
Ever been desperate to go to the bathroom, seen the tragic state that the public toilets are in and can suddenly wait until you get home. Dogs are similarly affected by their environment, but not necessarily as bothered by the lack of toilet roll!
If there's something wrong with the environment or scary then your dog might not feel safe enough to go and wait until they're back indoors where nothing can get them. Going to the toilet makes a dog vulnerable, things like next door's dog barking at them, children playing across the street and even it being dark can be enough to put a dog right off. If it's raining or cold then understandably a dog might not want to stay outside long enough to get through their toilet routine, leading to accidents in the house.
Have a good look at the environment where you want your dog to go and make sure the area is quiet and comfortable enough for them to get down to business.
Excited dogs, just like children, often forget they need to pee until it's too late! Young puppies are especially prone to this, so make sure if they've been playing or have just had an exciting meet and greet with one of their favourite humans that you take them to their toilet area straight away. In fact, some dogs get so excited to see people that a few drops escape during the greeting itself, these dogs are best greeted outside! Puppies will often grow out of this behaviour on their own.
Whatever the cause of your dog's potty problems there's one important thing to remember: NEVER shout or yell at your dog for having an accident. If you haven't seen your dog do it and find the puddle later, they will have no idea why you are mad and often show “guilty” looking behaviours as a response to your body language, rather than from an understanding of what upset you.
Even if you catch them in the act, dogs don't know the difference between right and wrong according to us humans. They just know the difference between “safe” and “unsafe”. Telling them off during the act can cause them to associate peeing in front of humans as “unsafe” and they will just find somewhere more private to go next time, such as behind the sofa, or waiting until you leave the room to relieve themselves. Not to mention that the more you tell a dog off the more prone they are to a nervous bladder!
The only foolproof way of resolving potty training issues is as mentioned above, take your dog out regularly to the right place and make sure you're watching them at all times so they can't go “wrong”. Clean any accidents up with an enzymatic solution designed specifically for urine and, if in doubt, get professional help.